25 Russia 2012
Home Up Who Went History of Russia Denmark

Russia 2012 - Missing Passport Who Went Russian History Copenhagen Denmark Stockholm Sweden I
Sweden II Helsinki Finland St Petersburg Russia Tallinn Estonia I Estonia II
1 - Early History 2 - Peter the Great 3 - St Petersburg 4 - Life After Peter 5 - Road to Moscow


 Saturday, August 18  Depart Copenhagen, Denmark
 Sunday, August 19  day at sea
 Monday, August 20  Stockholm, Sweden
 Tuesday, August 21  Helsinki, Finland
 Wednesday, August 22  St. Petersburg, Russia
 Thursday, August 23  Tallinn, Estonia
 Friday, August 24  day at sea
 Saturday, August 25  return to Copenhagen

Rick's Follow-up Story about Karma


Story Written by Rick Archer
August 2012

On our recent cruise trip to Russia and the Baltic Sea, I suffered the miserable fate of losing my passport.  This led to the single most excruciating dilemma I have ever faced in all of my many voyages.

You would assume that after 25 cruise trips I would be experienced enough to avoid a serious error like losing a passport.  Yeah right.

Before we begin, I want you all to understand that my overall cruise experience to Russia (plus Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Estonia) was so superior that even my travel nightmares did not stop me from deeply appreciating this trip.

As you read my tale of woe, I want you to make a silent vow to yourself that you will promise to learn from my mistakes.  As I demonstrate where I went wrong, perhaps you will be more prepared to prevent or cope with future travel pitfalls of your own.


To my mind, the 9-11 tragedy has made travel 100% more difficult for all of us.  Despite over ten years since the tragedy, I can’t see any real improvements in the way they handle the security process.  To me, it is just as much an ordeal today as it was ten years ago.

The headaches involved with clearing the security check are so immense that we all get rattled. 

Personally, I always tell myself and the personnel in charge that I appreciate the service they provide.  Thanks to these people, we have not lost one single more plane since 9-11 despite several further attempts.

But at the same time, no one can deny the security scan process is unbelievably stressful.  There is so much pressure involved to move fast and there are so many distractions that mishaps occur all the time. 

did I lose my passport? 

Our trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, involved two flights.  The first leg was Houston to Dulles Airport located in the Virginia countryside about 30 miles outside of Washington DC.

Marla has a rule – she prefers to keep both her passport and mine together as well as our boarding passes.  So moments after I displayed my passport and boarding pass at the first checkpoint here in Houston, as per our routine, I handed my passport to Marla.

Marla must have been preoccupied.  She placed it in her black carry-on suitcase without giving it a second thought.  That was the breakdown right there.  She always puts the document in her purse, but not this time. For some reason Marla put it in her small suitcase carry-on instead. 

Along for the trip was our friend Velma.  Velma asked if she could join us because it would be a lot easier handling the stress of a long trip if she had some friends.  Marla and I were happy to have Velma along.  We each contributed in our own way.  Velma's SUV was large enough for three people and all our luggage. 

I contributed with my shoulders.  All women agree that men are especially useful for taking out the trash, stepping on bugs, and carrying luggage.  Since I always help Marla with her largest bags, I was more than willing to do the same for Velma.

After getting past the first guard, the three of us passed through the security scan here at Bush Intercontinental without any problems.  There wasn’t much of a line, so we were able to take our time.  Plus we were fresh and alert.

Unfortunately, the plane trip to DC was an ordeal.  United Airlines is undergoing terrible transition problems during its assimilation of Continental.  They are doing some very rotten things and alienating a lot of customers.  If United isn't careful, they could be in for trouble.

Here is an example. Marla purchased our tickets for the Russia trip long in advance.  She obtained excellent seating on a comfortable Continental plane both going and coming back.

Imagine her horror when United informed her one month before departure that they had decided to substitute some Podunk airplane that Marla refers to as a “puddle jumper”.

We had just been bumped from a spacious Airbus A319 with 130 passengers -- seated in Premium Economy -- to a tiny Regional Jet 135 with 43 passengers.  They had also forced us to move our time up two full hours. 

Marla was furious.  This was classic “bait and switch”.  Nor was any compensation offered for the serious reduction in comfort. 

Sure enough, when we got to the plane, it was even worse than we expected.  The plane was so small that we had to check our carry-ons!   Sure enough, the overhead bins were so tiny that only the smallest carry-ons could be brought onto the plane.

Marla was upset because all her entertainment material plus her headphones were in the carryon they forced her to check.  I was upset because I had brought along a miniature amplifier to use in my dance classes.  They forced me to check it too.  Recently the amplifier had fit in a modern plane's overhead bin just fine on our previous Titanic trip, but not this piece of flying junk.

That amplifier did not come back home with me from Russia.  It didn’t work right from Day One on the cruise trip and then mysteriously died two days later.  Not a peep came out.  I remain very suspicious that they mishandled my sensitive electronic equipment.  

The trip itself was very uncomfortable.  The aisle was so narrow only one person could move at a time.  The seating alignment was strange – one set of seats on one side, double seats on the other… 3 seats to a row.  The plane was so small we only had one stewardess. 

Interestingly enough, on the cruise trip we would make friends with a couple from Sacramento who had experienced problems with their own United flight.

What was different is they had always loved United up till now.  They appreciated United just like Marla and I appreciated Continental.  Now Marla and I blamed United for all the problems only to discover Stella and Ken blamed Continental for all the problems. 

After all, Stella said, Jeff Smisek, the new president of United, had previously been the president of Continental.  In their eyes, this was conclusive proof that the deterioration in quality was surely all Continental’s fault.

Marla and I laughed.  Both couples agreed United was going downhill fast, but had arrived at the opposite conclusion for what might be the reason

No one really knows who is to blame.  Theoretically a merger should make the service improve, but in this case, many previous customers of both airlines are deeply dissatisfied. 

All I know is that my $150 amplifier worked just fine before the flight.


The three of us arrived at Dulles Airport without any problems other than the carry-on issueNow we had a two hour wait till the 515 pm flight boarded for Copenhagen. 

Soon enough it was time to board the plane.  The moment they told us to get in line, someone made a sinister announcement that only two carry-ons would be permitted.  I had a backpack, a laptop, and the amplifier. 

Usually they ignore the computer, but the United carry-on problems left me jittery.  Would they let me through? 

Unwilling to take a chance, at the last possible second I stuffed the laptop into Marla’s small suitcase she was using as her carry-on (the suitcase that secretly held the passport).  It fit. 

Moments later the check-in lady asked for my boarding pass and passport. 

I said, “My wife has it.”

Marla turned pale.  She didn’t have my passport.  She had only my second boarding pass to Copenhagen.

“Rick, you still have your passport.  I don’t have it.”

“No, Marla, I distinctly remember handing it to you.”

Marla shook her head.  “I don’t have it and I don’t remember you giving it to me.  Check your pockets and check your backpack.”

I was not yet aware of how much trouble I was in.  Okay, so I didn’t have my passport.  What I did have were two excellent copies of my passport in living color.  Surely this would prove my identity.

No, said the attendant who now called for the supervisor.

I immediately began to argue. “I have a drivers license, I have a photocopy of my passport, I have a boarding pass, and I have two witnesses to prove who I am.  What difference does it make?”

Apparently it makes a big difference.  The supervisor made it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t going to be on this plane without my passport.  There was something in the way she said it that indicated there would be no room to negotiate.

Meanwhile Velma had already boarded well ahead of us.  She had no idea of the drama taking place back in the terminal boarding line.

It was time to find the passport or be left behind.  I was sick with worry.  I was certain I had handed it to Marla back in Houston.  This meant I had no control over the outcome.  Either Marla had it or she didn't.

Exasperated, Marla and I went back to some empty seats to examine our luggage. I told Marla to empty the contents of her pocketbook.  Marla was disgusted because she knew my passport wasn’t in there.  But she emptied it anyway and there was definitely no passport.

Marla insisted again that I had never handed it to her.  I was fairly certain she was wrong, but her empty purse was giving me doubts.  Marla always kept the passports in her purse.

Now I emptied my entire backpack.  No passport.  It was gone. 

The attendant said they couldn’t wait much longer.  Marla said, “What should we do?”

I was pretty upset, but at least I could think a little.  I told Marla that she absolutely needed to get on that plane.  I did not want Velma travelling all the way to a far-off foreign country by herself.  Furthermore, Marla was the cruise group leader.  Most of our guests were staying in the same hotel organized by Marla.  Without her, there would be no one to trouble-shoot any potential problems.  It wasn't right to make the group leader stay behind to nurse-maid me.  Theoretically I should be able to take care of this myself.

Trust me, I wanted Marla beside me in the worst way.  I was nauseous with fear.  I had no idea how to get out of this mess.  But I decided that if I really put my mind to it and asked enough questions, I might figure out how to replace my passport on my own.  I comforted myself that I always had the option of flying home to Texas. 

They were urging Marla to get a move on.  She was holding up the entire plane.   Marla had one last word for me. “Rick, please find a way to join me. Please.”  One kiss and she was gone. 

As I watched her leave the terminal, I had a terrible sinking feeling. My previous passport had taken me months to obtain. What was I supposed to do?  I have never felt more alone in my adult life.

Just then I got another jolt.  Where was my computer?  It was nowhere to be seen. 

Instantly I lost whatever remaining composure I had left.  I had just bought that computer for this trip two days ago from Gary Richardson.  I had all my music stored on it. 

How pathetic!  I had only had the computer for two days and now it was gone.

I was panic-stricken.  Like a wounded animal, I ran around the area frantically looking for the computer.  I was out of control, looking everywhere, cursing to myself.  But the computer was nowhere in sight.  Obviously I had set the computer down somewhere in my frantic search for the passport and someone had walked off with it.  I was fit to be tied. 

Disgust, helplessness, and despair washed over me.  I slumped into a chair and hid my head in my hands.  

Now I was totally aloneI felt like the stupidest idiot in history.

How did this ever happen to me?   One minute I was ready to board the plane and now I had no passport, no computer, no wife and no idea what to do.  How could so many things possibly have gone wrong? 

I was ready to give up. I decided on the spot it wasn’t worth the fight.  I was going to march to the check-in desk of United and ask them to book me on the first flight back to Texas.  Then I would spend the next ten days feeling sorry for myself while Marla and the rest fended for themselves halfway across the world.

Then a thought occurred to me.  In all the confusion, I had forgotten that I had put the computer in Marla’s suitcase just an instant before the passport snafu unfolded.  The drama had totally erased the memory till now.

Waves of relief washed over me.  Thank goodness.  At least I had gotten one break. 

This encouraged me.  Right then and there I decided I would not give up without a fight.  I really wanted to see Russia.  At my age, it was unlikely I would ever get another chance.  This was my once in a lifetime shot.  Don’t quit!

Although the supervisor had been very firm with me, I remembered that she said there was a solution.  She had specifically said she would come back and help me once she was done getting her plane safely in the air.

So now I sat and waited for her.  Let’s see what she had to say.  About fifteen minutes later, the supervisor came back to me.  Her name was Marie.  She handed me my computer. 

Apparently while the supervisor was on the plane, Marie had mentioned to Marla I was going nuts back in the terminal looking for it.  Did Marla perhaps know anything to help?  Marla remembered she had it in her carry-on, so she found it and handed it to the supervisor who then relayed it to me.  Oh great, at least now I would have music to help me with my pity party.

I wasn't the only one with a headache. Apparently Marie had her hands full with both Marla and Velma.  Both women tried to get off the plane to come to my rescue.  Marie said she had no choice but to be forceful.  She told both women that to do so would hold up the entire flight while the men searched for their luggage.  Marie had used massive doses of guilt to persuade both ladies into going back to their seats.

It was nice to know both women were deeply worried about me.  That made three of us.

Marie worked for SAS, short for 'Scandinavian Airlines'.  Marie took one look at me and told me I had suffered a bad break, but not to let it get me down.  Marie explained that there was hope.  I was not the first person to ever get into this fix.  She had helped other people out of this same mess before.  If I listened carefully, I could be on the next flight tomorrow. 

Really?  My spirits rose a little.

Marie said there was a passport office in the DC area near the corner of L Street and 19th that offered emergency passport service.  She said it was located about five blocks from the White House. 

All I needed to do was show them my driver’s license, the copy of the passport I had lost  (Note to reader: Always carry a copy of your passport), and a manifest of my flight itinerary.

I looked at Marie blankly.  What is a flight itinerary?  

Marie explained I needed a copy of my flights to and from Copenhagen complete with dates to prove that I had a true travel “emergency”. 

In other words, I couldn’t expect them to just take my word for it that I needed a passport ASAP.  They needed proof.

I explained that Marla kept all the flight information.  Without hesitation, Marie turned around and asked a co-worker to print out the document.   

One minute later Marie handed me a printout that listed the four flights to and from Houston/Dulles/Copenhagen complete with the flight dates. I didn't understand its importance at the time, but that itinerary would prove invaluable. 

What I did sense was that this woman was taking care of me.  I felt my resentment turn into gratitude.  Marie was doing everything in her power to get me out of this fix I was in.

Marie said the next flight would take off at 515 pm tomorrow.  If I got to the passport office in the morning, I should be able to make tomorrow evening's flight. 

Marie smiled and said she would save a seat for me.

And that was that.  Marie shook my hand and walked off.

I was alone.


Now What?

I had two immediate problems. 

First, Dulles Airport was 30 miles from DC.  The cost of taxi fare to and from DC plus the cost of an overnight hotel would be prohibitive. 

Fortunately I had a credit card and quite a bit of cash on me, so at least money wasn’t the problem.  But I sighed at the thought.  I could see this mistake was going to cost me dearly.

Second, I had no cell phone.  About three months ago Marla said she was considering canceling my cell phone because I never used it.  Due to my retirement, I spend most of my time here at my house sitting next to a land phone.  Whenever I am on the road, Marla is typically seated right next to me.  If I need a cell phone, I simply use Marla’s phone. 

Okay, I agreed with Marla.  Considering I made at most one or two calls a month, I saw her point.  Cancel the phone.  Why have a mobile for someone who isn’t mobile? 

Today was the first time in over half a year I had ever needed a cell phone.  Who could anticipate something like this occurring?  So much for "Be Prepared", the Boy Scout motto.


I sat there for a while trying to think how to function in this world without a phone.  

I have an embarrassing admission to make.  When it comes to travel, I am ignorant about many of the practical aspects.  People assume that since I have been on all these trips, I know what I am doing.  Wrong. In some ways I am like a kid totally dependent on Marla.

Oh sure, I know things like the name and capital of all 196 countries in the world and where they are located. But this isn’t “practical knowledge”.  In many ways, I am helpless.

The ins and outs of booking a cruise and the do's and don'ts of booking an airline seat are my main weaknesses.  I don’t have a clue how to book an airline trip!!  I have never actually made a plane reservation in my entire life.  Before all the airline industry changes took place in the Nineties, I used a travel agent.  Then after the airline industry changes took place, Marla came along to take of me.  Marla has made all the bookings. 

I never bothered to learn because Marla always handled it.  My main role in the operation is to lug the luggage, chat with the foreigners, and then write the stories for the great trips when they are over and steal all the credit from Marla.   

Well, my dirty secret is out now.  Marla is the true brains of the operation (not that most of you haven't already figured it out).  At least now you understand why Marla was so worried about me.  Trust me, she had reason to worry.  In a sense, Marla had left a kid behind in that airport.  I didn't even know what a flight itinerary was until five minutes ago.

Aunt Lynn

Suddenly I had an inspiration.  What about Aunt Lynn!?  How did I ever forget her?  It had been about 30 minutes since the ordeal had begun.  In all that time, not once had it dawned on me that one of my best friends in the entire world lived somewhere not too far from this airport

OMG.  How could I have forgotten?  The stress had completely shut my mind down. When Marla had first booked this trip close to a year ago, I had asked if we could stop in DC and visit my relatives during this trip.  However, once Marla pointed out how tight our schedule was based on the nights I was working, I realized it wasn’t practical.  Well now, wasn't this a coincidence?  Maybe I was meant to have that visit after all.  Life has a strange way of coming full circle.

Once upon a time, Lynn lost her passport.  In a strange twist of fate, back in 2004 Lynn had flown to Houston to attend my wedding to Marla aboard the Rhapsody cruise ship At my house on the morning of the wedding, Lynn made a terrible discovery. She had just discovered she had left her passport behind in Virginia in another suitcase.  Does that sound familiar? 

The poor woman was crestfallen.  I tried to cheer her up. I said we would find a way. Thank goodness I was right.  It had taken over 45 minutes of arguing, but the ship authorities finally relented.  Lynn would have to stay on the ship the entire trip, but at least she got to go with us.

As I thought of Lynn, tears of relief and laughter came over me. I permitted myself the first grin since my ordeal had begun. 
Losing passports was obviously a family trait.  Aren't we a mess?

I asked a lady at the SAS check-in desk where McLean, Virginia, was.  She answered that McLean was about halfway between the airport and downtown DC.  Amazing.  Lynn's DC suburb was located in Northern Virginia on the way to the Passport place.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have Lynn’s phone number and I didn’t remember how to get to her house.  However, I did remember her address.  Bingo. My adventure had begun.  I made a silent vow to myself.  I had been given a lemon.  Now it was time to make lemonade.  Let's have some fun!

I decided to go outside and get a cab to McLean,   When I asked where to get a cab, the lady said I would be better off to simply go to the information desk first.  Good idea.

The lady at the information desk was very helpful. 

She used the address I gave her to track down a land phone number for Lynn.  However, when I called, there was only an answering machine.  Darn it. 

I left a message for Lynn that I was coming to her house, but that I didn’t have a cell phone for her to call me back.

Then I found a cab.  It was driven by an elderly black man.  Given his expression, I think I was his last fare of the day.

Once we got going, I asked him where he was from.  Sierra Leone, a poverty-stricken African country.

I smiled.  Did he come from Freetown?

The man nodded, then stared at me.  How did I know the name of the capital of Sierra Leone? 

I told him I had been interested in the history of Africa for a long time.  I was careful not to add that I knew Sierra Leone was an area where many black people were captured and sent to America as slaves.  Not America's proudest moment.

My cab driver replied that he had been driving a cab for thirty years and no one had ever said a word about where he was from.

I laughed. It is always fun to use my travel knowledge to make a friend. 

I replied, "Isn’t Sierra Leone located on the Gold Coast of Western Africa?

He looked at me in the mirror with another suspicious glance.  I caught his eyes and smiled back to reassure him I was harmless.

Now we became instant friends… which was a good thing since I clearly needed a friend. 

He said his name was Kamal.  We talked about everything under the sun.

I asked him if he enjoyed living in America.  From a foreigner’s point of view, did we have a good country? 

Kamal said America is the finest country in the world.  He cannot believe the freedoms we enjoy and the thought that our citizens will never know what true hunger is

Kamal said he still cries sometimes whenever he remembers how hungry he was when he was growing up.  He said the lines of people waiting for food in his country would force him to wait for an entire day sometimes just to get a loaf of bread for his family.

The disease was terrible.  So was the violence and the corruption.  Humans weren't treated much better than dogs.  Women were assaulted constantly.  The Sierra Leone of his youth was a lawless, miserable land.

Then he shook his head.  What bothered Kamal was the number of people who rode in his cab who took America for granted.  The things these people worried about were so silly.  They would live their entire lives in the USA in almost total ignorance of the suffering and poverty that affects half the people on our planet.

His conclusion was poignant. 

“Always be grateful you live in America.  It is the best country in the world.”


As we drove along the Dulles Toll Road, Kamal asked me how to get to Lynn’s house. 

Kamal ruefully admitted he knew DC very well, but not these Northern Virginia suburbs.

I said I didn’t have a clue either.  Back when I was in college at Johns Hopkins in Maryland, I drove down to Lynn’s house about once a month.  I only knew how to get to her house from one specific direction and that had been 40 years ago.  It was all blank to me now. 

So I told Kamal to stop at a gas station where I could buy a Northern Virginia key map ($15). I got back in the car and breathed a giant sigh of relief when I located Lynn's street on the map.  Once I figured out where we were on the map, I could see it wasn't but about five miles away.  Now we began to negotiate our way through the twists and turns of this heavily-wooded, hilly area

As we drove along, I gasped at the opulence of some of the homes.  I couldn't help but admire the beauty of the hills and suburban forest as well.  Back when I was in college, I had not realized just how affluent this area was.  My mind operated differently then.  Now that I was older, I could definitely appreciate the value of these homes.

Northern Virginia is a lovely area.  I delighted at how the homes were designed to avoid disturbing the natural beauty of the densely wooded area. Each house was half disguised by giant trees and thick shrubs.  This was not only an extremely wealthy neighborhood, it was very tasteful.

Ten minutes later I was in front of Lynn’s house.

The cab fare was $50 and I added $10 more.  I had a feeling Kamal needed the money more than I did.  Besides, he had really cheered me up.

I have always thought Lynn's house was beautiful.  It is built right into a sloping hill.  Those thick shrubs conceal an extensive basement area. 

As I studied the home, I could see that Lynn’s house had suffered in the past 40 years.  The house was a bit weather-beaten.  Nature was definitely reclaiming the house at this very moment.

I understood.  Lynn was hardly young enough to be concerned about the upkeep.  Lynn stayed in the house because her four children – Rick, Dale, Tammy, and Todd – wanted her to remain in the “ancestral home”.  They all know how comfortable Lynn is living there, so they take turns keeping an eye on her.  The Griffiths family is very loving and very close.

I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell.  No answer.  Oh well.  I would have to wait till she got home.  I knew Lynn was retired, but I also knew she could still drive.  I assumed she was taking one of her five grand-children to swim practice or soccer practice. [By the way, that garage door was down when I arrived. I took this picture the next day.]

So now I waited.  And waited some more.

Two hours later I was still sitting in a wood chair in her front lawn doing crossword puzzles.  

I was getting pretty worried.  I didn’t even know if Lynn still lived there or not.  Back in March 2012 she and I had a nice phone call.  Lynn's son Rick joined Marla and me on our cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.  Rick G came back to report to Lynn what a good time he had had, so Lynn took the chance to catch up on all the news with me.

But that was six months ago.  A lot can happen.  There was the dark possibility that Lynn had fallen recently and had to move in with one of my four cousins in the area while she recovered.

Or perhaps the entire family had gone to Maine for their annual family summer trip.  If so, I was in trouble.  I had no way of getting in touch with any of my four cousins. 

I started to wonder what I would do if Lynn didn't show up.  The nearest place to find a phone to call a cab was four miles away.  I dreaded walking that distance with my computer, my amplifier, and the backpack. 

Finally a car pulled in next door.  It was a young oriental couple with a small child.  I introduced myself, explained my situation, and asked them if Lynn still lived there next to them.

They said they rarely saw her, but were pretty certain she still lived there.  They would have seen the moving vans.

Then the wife remembered that Lynn’s grandson Dale Jr used to mow their lawn. 

As a side note to the casual reader, practically everyone in the extended family is either a Richard or a Dale.  Including my beloved deceased uncle, there are three Richards and three Dales.  If we keep this up for one more generation, it's Roman numeral time.

I held my breath as the lady retrieved the number in her cell phone and gave Dale Jr a call.  The young man didn’t answer, but his sister April did. The lady told me April didn't know who I was.  So I told her to say I was from Texas.  That did the trick. 

April finally remembered who I was. 

Texas and me are synonymous to the Griffiths clan.

I had only met April once previously.  Eleven years ago I had come to the area to visit along with my daughter SamHere is a picture of Sam and April at age 10.  Dale Jr is 8.  Look how pretty Lynn is. 

April said she would call Lynn on her cell phone.  April added one more tidbit – she thought her grandmother was actually at home as we spoke.

You have to be kidding.

So I walked next door to Lynn’s house.  Sure enough, moments later the door opened.  April had reached Lynn by cell phone.  Lynn was absolutely shocked to see me standing there.  Unbelievable!

We hugged and I came in.  What a relief.  I was miserable in the summer heat and eaten alive with mosquitoes.  Safety and comfort at last.

Lynn explained that she never answers her home phone anymore because the only people she cares about call her on her cell.  The only people who call her on the home phone are trying to sell something.  Then she explained that she had the TV on in a back room and had never heard the door bell.  I nodded and said I understood.  I often don’t hear my own door bell when I have music playing at the computer.

To my surprise, Lynn was working a jigsaw puzzle.  I smiled with delight.  Jigsaw puzzles – another family tradition!  I went to the fridge to grab a much-needed beer, then sat down.  We both began to look for pieces while we caught up on everything.  It was so good to be home again!!

This was a wonderful moment for me.  I was here with my favorite Aunt in the world, the lady who in many ways was my foster mother when I was growing up.  I would have never made it through college without her. 

To this day, I would give Lynn my vote as the most talented mother I have ever met.  Not only did she raise her own four wonderful children, she even found time to help me too.  Lynn is a darling woman.

As we worked the jigsaw puzzle, Lynn left a text message for Marla.  However there was no reply.  I was a little surprised because I assumed Marla would have her phone on.  Marla had gotten international service for this trip.  Oh well. 

About half an hour after I came inside, Nancy called in.  Nancy is Cousin Todd’s lovely wife.  Nancy and Lynn are best friends. I have only met Nancy twice, so I decided to tease her.  I got on the phone and asked if she had any idea who I was. 

Poor Nancy was completely baffled.  However, she laughed when I identified myself. Nancy said she would be right over to visit and hear my tale of woe.

I found out that Todd and his son Joey, 17 [age 6 above], were playing volleyball that night. Eventually they came over to join Nancy.  What a delightful treat to see them all again! 

Joey and I proceeded to play checkers and chess while we all chatted.  Joey, a senior in high school, slaughtered me at checkers, but I regained a little pride by winning at chess.

My cousin Dale phoned in to check out the rumor I was at the family home.  I had not seen Dale in nearly twenty years.  On the spot, he offered to drive me into DC in the morning.  What a blessing.

Now we had some excitement when the lights went out.  They briefly flickered back on, then gave up completely.  The world went dark. Apparently this happens fairly frequently since there were flashlights in Lynn’s living room that were obviously on hand for this situation. 

We just kept on talking in the dark.  After Todd, Nancy, and Joey left around midnight, Lynn and I stayed up to talk till 2 in the morning.  Tears frequently came to my eyes as I sat recalling all the kindness this warm and gentle lady had extended to me over the years. 

I reminded Lynn I still considered myself her fourth son.  Lynn said she was more than happy to claim me.  Lynn has told me many times how proud she is that I was able to overcome my many problems during my childhood to become a good father and a success in my career. 

Sure enough, the tears started to flow again.  Thank goodness the lights were still out.

When the lights came back on at 2 am, we took this as a signal to pack it in.  What a special evening! My ordeal had turned into a wonderful blessing in disguise.  No matter how scared I had been earlier, it was worth it just to see Lynn again.  I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.

Early the next morning as we ate breakfast, the phone rang.  It was Marla.  She was in tears.  Marla said to her horror, once she got on the plane she discovered her phone did not work.  Something had not been activated in the service she had paid for. Marla had spent all night with Verizon using Velma’s phone trying to get her own service working.  She had just now discovered Lynn's text message 13 hours after Lynn had sent it.  

Thank goodness I was all right.  Like me, at the airport Marla had completely forgotten that Lynn lived in the area.  What a relief it was to know I was safe with my family.

Marla's voice lowered as she asked if there was any chance I was going to make it to Russia.  I could actually sense her anxiety 5,000 miles away.

I said I thought I had a real shot at it.  At this good news, Marla cheered up dramatically.  Marla said she had been so scared I was just going to give up and head back to Texas.  I frowned.  Marla knew me too well.  She was well aware of how helpless I am without her. 

Then Marla said she would be miserable if I couldn’t make the trip.  Please try to come.  At that, tears came to my eyes.  I promised my sweetheart I would do my best. 

Shortly after Marla’s call, Cousin Dale came over. 

For the rest of the day, Dale would be my hero, my saving grace.  Dale is a very strong guy both physically and mentally. He exudes leadership.  Dale took me under his wing and said he would make sure we got this done today.

From the moment he said that, I knew this was going to work.

Dale drove Lynn and me into town. He said convenient parking in DC was a huge headacheI said don’t worry about it.  Just find a nearby garage and I would pay for an entire day.  I had a hunch it might take that long anyway. $20.  I was keeping a running tab of my bill.  We were up to $95 total.

To my immense relief, we found the Passport office around the corner from our parking garage Then my heart sank as I read the sign on the door.

“The Washington Passport Agency is an APPOINTMENT ONLY agency.”

However I kept reading.  It said that passengers with urgent needs could also use the service. 

Now I understood why Marie, the SAS supervisor, had thought to give me the print-out.  Unless I could PROVE that I had an emergency, I was out of luck.  I said a quiet thank you.

Bless your heart, Marie.

The three of us went through a very thorough airport-type security station and entered the office. 

It was 8:15 am.  There was already a line ahead of me.

I stood in line and waited my turn.  The first stop was a screening station.  The lady looked at driver’s license, my photocopy of the passport, and my travel itinerary that proved my emergency status.  She nodded.  Everything was in order and they could help me.  However, first I needed a Photo ID with the correct dimensions for my new Passport.  No, I couldn’t take my own picture.  It didn’t work like that.  

She gave me directions to a CVS pharmacy down the street.  While Dale and Lynn waited, I trudged over to get my picture taken and processed.  $10.  $105 total.  

While I was getting my picture taken, three more people showed up for the same reason.  This was a thriving business indeed.

Thirty minutes later, I was back. I stood in the same line again.  After a twenty minute wait, I was given a number and told to go sit.  We waited about an hour and a half.  Sometime around 10:45 am, my number finally came up.

The lady at the window was a sweetheart.  Her name was Chantal.  She sympathized with my situation.  Chantal said she would have to get her supervisor’s permission to grant me emergency status, but couldn’t see any reason why this would be a problem.  She said it was good that I had my passport photocopy.  This not only saved me quite a bit of extra headache, she hinted it saved me considerable extra cash as well

As Chantal processed my application, she asked for my credit card.  $195.  Now we stood at an even $300.  Well, looking on the bright side, it was a good investment.  At least my expensive cruise vacation plus the plane fare would not go down the drain.  I smiled.  Russia, here I come.

Chantal said the new passport would be ready at 12:30 pm.  I thanked her and blessed her.  What a relief.

Dale, Lynn and I walked across the street to have lunch.  Life is good.

After lunch, we came back and fetched the new passport. 

After dropping Lynn off at her home, Dale drove me to Dulles. 

It was a wonderful ride as we caught up on childhood memories and all the things that had happened to us in the past twenty years.  Dale really came through in the clutch for me.  I am so much in his debt!

Dale even offered to come into the airport and run interference for me.  Like his mother, Dale is a born caretaker.  I think he sensed my concern over the unknown.  But I remembered Marie had said they would reserve a spot for me, so I said Dale could just drop me off.  If worse came to worse, I could call his cell phone using the information desk phone.

Dale nodded.  We shook hands, then hugged like brothers

I can't say I enjoyed the ordeal, but I can honestly say the joy of seeing my family again was so special that all the pain had been totally erased.  Thanks to them, I was back on my feet.

I entered the terminal and walked up to the SAS reservation desk.  The lady at the counter smiled at me.

I began by saying, “I have a really strange problem.” 

Before I could say another word, the lady said, “Hello, Mr. Archer.  We’ve been expecting you.  I am glad you made it back.” 

I laughed. My notoriety preceded me. I was a cause célèbre!  

Then the lady pointed to Marla’s red suitcase nearby.  It was just sitting there waiting for me.  I had no idea why her suitcase was there, but its presence indicated they obviously expected me to show up.  They had more confidence in me than I had in myself. 

I asked why Marla's suitcase was there.

Apparently when I didn’t get on the plane, regulations forced them to pull the luggage.  I can understand why.  Otherwise a terrorist could use this "missing passport" trick as a ploy to avoid accompanying a bomb hidden in the suitcase. 

However, I had to laugh.  They had pulled the wrong bag.  This meant Marla must have my suitcase.  No wonder she was so desperate for me to show up - Lost in Denmark without makeup!!

Now came the final sting. $250 penalty for switching the ticket.  I frowned.  Marla said on the phone she had been told there would be no extra charge.  After all, they had sold my seat on Standby.  They weren’t out any money.  However, I didn’t know enough about the rules to argue, so I handed over the credit card.  Now the final tab was up to $550.   Quite an expensive lesson.

I ran into Marie at the boarding area and thanked her again.  She had taken very good care of me indeed. 

As expected, the 8 hour flight was tough, but at least it was on a comfortable plane.  When I got to Denmark at 7 am their time, I headed to the information desk to ask the best way to get into town about 20 miles away. 

Marla and Velma had used a taxi, but the lady said the train was much easier.  To my surprise, the ticket was only $7 American.  What a bargain!

I bought my ticket, then asked if they had a map of Copenhagen.  To my relief, the map had a detailed street plan.  I realized the hotel was only three blocks from the central train station in the city.

When I arrived in Copenhagen, I simply walked out the train station and looked around for a street sign.

When a passerby saw me looking at the map, she stopped and offered to help.  She pointed me in the right direction.

I thanked her, then complimented her on her perfect English.  She smiled.

“We all speak English here in Europe because no one in America has a clue how to speak a second language.”


Now I began to trudge towards the hotel.  I had my computer in one hand, the amplifier in the other, Marla's big red suitcase and my backpack.  Therefore, progress was not rapid.  However, 10 minutes later I spotted the hotel. 

I immediately did a double take.  There was a men’s club called “Lady Love” right across the street from the hotel. 

How could I miss it?  There were pictures of barely clothed women plastered all over it. 

Plus, unless my instincts were wrong, there were two ladies standing nearby who appeared available at the right price.  Good grief, it was 8 in the morning.  Kinda early, isn't it?

I grinned.  I had no doubt Marla hadn’t expected this when she booked this much praised hotel.  

Welcome to Copenhagen.

Marla spotted me the moment I walked in the door at 8 am.  

Marla had guessed this would be about the time I would appear. Since the hotel restaurant overlooks the entrance, Marla had perched herself in the perfect vantage point.

What a nice surprise it was to see her face light up.

After a quick hug and kiss, I said hi to Velma, Sandy, Marsha and Susan.  They were all sitting at the dining table nearest the door keeping nervous Marla company.

I took this picture, said hi to everyone, then headed for the room.  I needed a place to collapse for a couple minutes.

The ordeal was over.  What a long, strange trip it had been.

One Stupid Mistake After Another

When we reached the room, Marla and I got a chance to talk.

I told Marla what a disguised blessing it had been to see my family again.  But then I quickly promised her losing my passport was not a trick on my part.  Recalling my panic, I would never dream of deliberately inviting that kind of misery.

Marla smiled. "Yes, Rick, I know you are telling the truth.  Yesterday I found your missing passport."

Marla said the passport had slid to the very back of an external pocket on her suitcase.  Marla shook her head. “I can’t imagine why I put the passport in my suitcase. I don't remember doing that.  I never use my suitcase.  I always use my pocketbook.  I am not myself.  I think I am losing my mind.”

I was surprised.  I agreed with Marla about the suitcase.  Not once had I considered searching Marla's suitcase carry-on.  I was so sure that Marla ALWAYS uses her purse for documents the thought of searching the other carry-on never crossed my mind.

I gave her a hug.  I told Marla I wasn’t even remotely mad at her.  And I meant it. 

To me, it was just one of those things.  I had handed the passport to her at a moment when she was clearly distracted.  She put it in a pocket of the suitcase and zipped it up without a second thought.  The passport transfer had not even registered on her mind.  Marla must have been preoccupied the same way you or I can put our keys down or our glasses down, then completely forget where we put it. 

I can't tell you how many times I have spent frustrating hours trying to remember where something might be. When people are forced to hurry, they make mistakes.  That's all there is to it.  To err is not only human, it's really easy to do!

We vowed we would both be more careful from now on.  Lot of good it did us… we both would make huge errors later in the same trip!!

The truth is that I am terribly absent-minded.  After our Panama Canal cruise earlier this year, on the airplane coming home I placed my black Kindle in the pocket of the seat in front of me.  You know what I mean; this is the place where the airplane magazines are placed for you to look at.  I wanted to take a nap, so I just put the Kindle there to get it out of my way.

When I got off the plane, I left it there.  It was hidden behind the magazines and I forgot all about it.  In fact, a week passed before I even missed it.  I called Amazon.  Someone had found it and decided to keep it, but it didn’t do them any good. Amazon said someone had already tried to register it without any luck because they didn't have the pass codes or any proof of purchase.  I had to buy a new Kindle, but at least I was able to download all my books and songs at no extra charge.  That dumb mistake cost me $300. 

In addition to my problem with the passport, I almost repeated the Kindle mistake on this Russia trip.  Right before landing in Houston at the tail end of the trip, the attendant came by and ordered me to take my computer off my lap and push it deep under the seat in front of me for safety regulations.  It was black and completely invisible to the eye. When the plane came to a stop, I got up to stretch.  I completely forgot about my computer which was now out of sight.  In my haste to get the h-l off this plane, I was doing the exact same thing I had done with the Kindle.

Just as I got ready to go down the aisle, Marla said, “Where’s your computer?”

Unbelievable.  How could I be so careless?  That computer contained over a thousand pictures that Marla and I had taken on our trip.  Those pictures were irreplaceable.  After all I had been through, how could I make this mistake?  Like Marla, I must be losing my mind.

Not long ago, Marla had made the exact same mistake.

Recently Marla had taken her own laptop to Melody Club.  In conjunction with an amplifier, Marla used her computer to play music for her Ballroom class.  After her class ended, Marla sat down in a dark area to wait for me to finish talking to someone. Marla set her computer down on the floor beside her.  When it was time to go to dinner with our friends Tom and Margaret, she left the computer behind.

After dinner, as we got in the car, Marla suddenly realized her computer was missing. I have no idea why that thought crossed her mind at that particular moment, but she was in an instant panic.  We looked in the trunk and it was gone.  We raced back to Melody Club frantic with worry. Every single piece of information for her travel business was on that computer.

Sure enough, the computer was on the floor right where she left it.  Marla was so relieved.  But she was shaken too.  "I must be losing my mind!!"

At the time, I said nothing to Marla; I knew she was upset enough with her enormous mistake.  But I could not help but think I would never ever possibly be that careless with something that important. 

Famous last words.  Two weeks later I turned around and did the exact same thing.  

Kindles, computers, passports... are we morons or what?

Believe it or not, I was not the only person on this trip to lose a passport.

Velma lost her passport too... same thing, she was careless.

On the same day that I arrived in Copenhagen, the group decided to spend the day using the Hop On/Hop Off bus.  We entered a nearby information office to purchase our tickets. 

Velma kept her passport inside her money pouch.  When she pulled out her money pouch to pay for the ticket, she set the passport aside on the counter so she could fish around to see where she had stored her Danish krones. 

Once Velma got her bus ticket, she turned to look for Marla on her right. The passport was sitting on her left.  It was that easy. 

Nine hours passed.  Velma did not discover her mistake until 7 pm and nearly had a heart attack.

Velma gave it some serious thought and remembered where she had last seen the passport.  The whole group followed her over for moral support.

Fortunately the information office was still open.  Yes, they had seen her passport, but after keeping it for a while, they had turned it over to the police.  So now the group of us trundled over to the police station. 

Sure enough, the police had Velma’s passport.  What a relief. 

Of course we all had fun razzing Velma, but truth be told, before the end of the trip, everyone but Sandra had lost something.  It was an epidemic!!

Does the story end here?  Heck no.  Soon enough, Marsha reported losing her camera on the day she boarded the ship.  She could not imagine how she had lost it.  Fortunately someone turned it in and Marsha was able to retrieve it a day later. 

I got lucky the same way on my Titanic Cruise earlier this year.  On Formal Night, after dinner Marla and I went dancing.  

Upstairs in the dance room, I had a couple glasses of wine and really got into the music.  As I got heated from the dancing, naturally the coat and tie quickly came offI set them on a nearby table behind my seat. 

An hour later I went back to the room without either.

Both were brand new just for this trip.  That coat wasn't cheap either.

Fortunately, there are two formal nights on each cruise.  When I went to look for my jacket for the second Formal Night, it was gone.  I had no idea it had even been missing. 

So I headed to the front desk.  Like Marsha, I found it waiting for me.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief. 

Does the story end here?  No.  There’s still more.

Why are they Picking on Me?

In the Copenhagen airport on our departure day, the security people must have been in some sort of mood. 

They definitely didn’t like my backpack.  The Danish security man was very nice and apologetic about it, but he proceeded to empty EVERYTHING I had in my backpack onto a table.  EVERYTHING.  I was in shock.

I store my electronic stuff in the backpack. Why?  Because if I put this stuff in my luggage and it gets lost, I am in deep trouble.  I can live without the clothes, but I prefer to keep the essential stuff near me.

My backpack carries the camera, the wires for my camera to download cruise pictures to the computer, camera chargers, Kindle, Kindle chargers, Ipod, Ipod charger, an extension cord for teaching dance classes on the cruise ship, headphone, power strip to plug the amplifier and the computer into during class, computer power cords, plus an external hard drive to store music and pictures on as a backup

These items all came tumbling out in the interests of national security. 

Let's face it, the tension at these security points is unbelievable to the point of almost being ridiculous.

They make you take everything out of your pockets. I overlooked a nickel at one station. I was forced to go through the excruciating wand treatment for my carelessness.  No matter how hard I try, something always go wrong.  

My brother-in-law Larry had his watch stolen right out of a tray.  So I always put my wallet and passport in my backpack so no one will have access. 

Unfortunately, in Denmark this trick did me no good. 

As the agent dumped out the contents of my backpack onto the counter in back, my eyes bulged as my precious passport and my wallet both bounced on the table and fell off the tableAs crazy as I was about losing my passport the first time (much less my wallet), this pushed my buttons. It was almost more than I could take. I instantly dived to the floor to retrieve them, muttering a few choice words under my breath in the process.

Besides the stuff that hit the floor, the rest was scattered all over the counter.  I was angry.  Did he really need to go this far? 

I decided a protest would accomplish nothing.  So, with resignation, I began to pick up all the wires, wallets, chargers, pill containers, ink pens, clipboard, crossword puzzles, cameras, bag of cashews, you name it, and tried to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Just then a female agent came over and barked at me to move out of the way.  The scanner had revealed some woman had committed the hideous crime of lotion.  My counter was the closest place.  The agent ordered me to clear the counter immediately so she could bust Lotion Lady.  I looked at the woman - she was pale white with fear.  Would this mean jail time?  

I was just as bad as Lotion Lady.  I was so rattled by the agent's harsh tone that I jumped.  In the process of turning, my elbow accidentally knocked over a box that contained the precious ceramic castle memento I had bought in Estonia as well as my ceramic Russian Church memento. 

I was carrying both items for a simple reason - they were very fragile.  Now I screamed in horror as I saw the box plummet to the floor. 

And why was the box out in the open to begin with?  Because they made me take it out of the plastic bag it was stored in to examine it.

Fortunately, thanks to the bubble wrap, the castle and church were not broken. 

But my nerves were shattered by the overall experience.  I needed a sedative.


Now it was Marla's Turn to Suffer

We weren’t done yet.  After this security drama, the three of us next had to go through Denmark customs.  Fortunately that didn't take long. 

We were now in the secure waiting area for our plane.  Velma and Marla stopped at the restroom while I went ahead to the seating section.  15 minutes later I was suddenly told to leave because they were running a security check in the area.  This was a bit unsettling.  What's this all about?  Then I noticed Marla and Velma were nowhere in sight. What were they doing?

I had to walk almost all the way back to customs checkpoint to find them.  I found Marla in tears.  She had lost her gift bag.  All the things she had bought as presents were gone.  Her Christmas ornaments, her music box, her stuffed moose for her grandson, the box of chocolate for her daughter – Gone.  Marla was beside herself.  She had taken so much care in selecting each item.

Marla told me she had already gone back outside through the customs checkpoint all the way back to the security check point where I had gotten so frazzled to look, but it didn’t work.  Marla was crying hard.  The frustration of all these problems was too much.

I was pretty much fried myself from the Humpty-Dumpty experience, but I sympathized with Marla's loss nonetheless.

I set my things down and said I would go back with her for another look.  Velma said she would guard our carry-on stuff while we went in search.  Marla and I went back past the customs pointWe went all the way across the airport to Lost and Found.  No luck.  Then we went to the information desk.  No luck.  Then we went back to the security checkpoint for the second time where they had dumped out my backpack.  No luck.  Then we went to “border patrol” next to the customs checkpoint.  No luck.  Four locations had not turned up the missing item.

Marla gave up in tears.  Those gifts were very important to her.  She was so frustrated. 

However, now we had a new problem. The cruise bus from our ship had just arrived at the airport and dropped off 100 new passengers.  These people were all in front of us.  There was only one man working the customs checkpoint.  Fortunately another man showed up, but we still stood in line for 30 minutes.  We were running out of time for our plane.  Marla was rapidly becoming unhinged.  Me?  Hey, I was so numb I was resigned to anything.  This trip had beaten me to a pulp.

When we finally got back to Velma, it had been an hour. 

We raced to the boarding area only to discover they had moved our boarding area to another spot due to the mysterious security check at our original location. Now we had to turn around and search for the new station.  This was like a nightmare with no end.

They were boarding just as we arrived.  We were practically the last in line.  Marla was frantic with worry that we had been bumped.  It dawned on me that an excellent Survivor locale might be the Copenhagen airport.  Let's see how many people could survive this place!

While I waited my turn, I idly wondered if Lotion Lady had escaped the death penalty.  Maybe they had merely flogged her.

Next they sent us out onto the tarmac.  We had to board a shuttle bus to drive us BACK to where the airplane was parked at our original boarding station.  They never did explain what was wrong to my satisfaction.  There was something strange about the whole thing, but no one ever tells you the truth.  Never upset the public tranquility; lie at all costs.

However, I didn't care that no one was willing to be square.  All that mattered is that we got on the plane back to America. 


United Drops the Ball Again

Is the story over yet?  Almost, but not yet.

Now we were back at Washington Dulles for Round Two.  Fortunately the scanning process and the customs check went off surprisingly quickly.  There were no headaches this time.  I braced for another backpack incident, but it made it through without a problem.  I will never know why the Danish official took it so seriously while the USA people could care less.  It is all so random; I never know what to expect.

Unfortunately we had a major time concern, so we were on edge.  Thanks to the drama back in Copenhagen with the shuttle and the mysterious “security check”, our flight had been delayed.  We barely had enough time to catch our connecting flight to Houston.

Sure enough, the moment we reached the boarding area, they whisked us right through to the planeWe didn't even have a chance to sit.

The three of us were told to walk down to the tarmac. However, I thought it was strange to be passed by people going in the other direction.  They were obviously disembarking passengers.  Surely they had not just gotten off our plane?  What was this all about? 

I looked out.  There was not one, but two United Puddle Jumpers nearby.  As we collected on the concrete surface, we could see passengers were still getting off the plane my ticket said was oursI assumed something was wrong here.  Didn't they usually completely clear the plane before boarding the plane?

I stopped on the concrete. I assumed we would have to check our carry-ons again.  As I waited for someone to collect my Carry-on and check it for Puddle Jumper Two, some skinny teenager working the luggage came over to us and said we didn’t belong down here.  The plane was not nearly ready to take off.  He mumbled something about re-fueling.  Yes, that might be a good idea.

He indicated we should all go back up the stairs.  How ridiculous.  This kid knew more than the supervisor did!

The lady at the check-in desk apologized profusely.  She said they had discovered they didn’t have enough personnel to man the flight.  I wondered if they even had a pilot.  These were not positive omens. No fuel, no pilot, no organization... what were my chances of survival?

So now they sent passengers heading for Colorado Springs ahead of us.  At least now I knew what that other plane was doing down there.  But it seemed really odd to be using the same boarding area for two different planes. 

As we waited, the next announcement was weird.  They said our plane was ready now, but first they had to fill out some emergency paperwork.  Oh, how reassuring.  I assumed they were clearing that teenager to fly the plane back to Houston.  I assumed the kid's name was Otto, you know, Otto the Otto-Pilot.  How much lower could this once proud airline fall?

Believe it or not, there was still room for things to get worse.

We all finally got seated only to face one final humiliation.  The flight attendant announced one person would have to leave the plane.  Puddle Jumper Two had exceeded its weight limit. 

Incredulous, Marla looked at me; I looked at Marla.  Too many people returning home from a cruise, obviously. 

Silence ruled and nothing happened.  Please let this be over.  I wondered if they would draw straws if no one volunteered. 

The flight attendant raised the offer and mercifully one young girl stood up.  While everyone else clapped, I noticed how thin she was and wondered if she weighed enough to do the trick.  The attendant must have thought the same thing.  She did actually appear to inspect the girl as she passed.  However, with a shrug of her shoulders, the woman nodded and waved the girl off. 

We all sighed with relief.  However, I am sure I was not the only one who had serious doubts about the safety of this upcoming fight.

Fortunately, other than the over-zealous attendant who ordered me to hide my computer on the floor, we landed without incident. The ride on the cramped Puddle Jumper Two was no better than the first, but at least we survived. 

This flight had not been a proud moment for United.  So much for flying the friendly skies.  Those days were over.


Marla's Missing Bag

Once Marla was back in Houston, she was determined to sort out the mystery of her misplaced gift bag.

Marla went on line.  She found an Internet site that listed lost and found at the Copenhagen airport.  To her surprise, there were 45 missing items.  Many of them were expensive computers, Ipads, cameras and Kindles.  Apparently there are a lot of stupid people who go through that airport... or maybe it's just that particular airport.  Recalling my own backpack experience, I wondered if perhaps the extreme stress of that place was at fault.

And yes, Marla note there was a missing plastic bag on the list.  A phone call revealed the bag belonged to Marla. My girl had tracked her missing gift bag halfway across the globe.  

Marla was curious to learn what had gone wrong.  Where did they find it?

To her surprise, Marla discovered she had lost it when we went to check our bags onto the plane It wasn't the security check after all, but the check-in counter instead.

At the time, neither of us thought to check that spot even though we walked right by it on our way to Lost and Found.  Probably the SAS lady who checked our bags had spotted it and put it behind the check-in station in case we came back.  Oh well.

So what caused the problem?

As always, Marla was terrified that her large red suitcase was over the 50 pound limit and we would face the cursed $50 penalty and maybe flogging as well.  Marla set her gift bag on the floor and concentrated on watching the check-in lady's eyes for widening pupils as she weighed the large suitcase.

Right next to Marla came another distraction. 

As Velma tried to check in at the adjoining counter, she was being hassled because she had the nerve to check two bags to check, not one.  I couldn't figure out what the fuss was.  What's wrong with checking two bags?  Velma didn't mind paying.  Incredibly Velma was forced to go to another station well across the terminal just to pay for her second bag.  We never did figure out why they couldn’t handle this payment issue on the spot.  Velma was clearly rattled.  No one had bothered her back in Houston about this problem.

Marla immediately rushed to Velma's aid.  Naturally Marla was so worried about Velma’s problem that she followed Velma to the payment counter.  She left her gift bag sitting on the behind her the same way she had left her computer at Melody Club.

Marla was a moron.  Rick was a moron.  Sad to say, we managed to infect our friend Velma too.  Marla and I like to brag that we have never lost a passenger yet, but that streak almost came to an end on this trip.  We invited Velma to travel with us to share our experience, our safety in numbers, our company, and our protection.  And what did we do?   We turned Velma into a moron too.  If it wasn't for Vodka, Velma would have never survived our help. 

Now that I think back, there is so much pressure to move fast, so many people telling you what to do, and so many distractions that the stress makes you lose your mind.  When you factor in that many people are inexperienced travelers who get tired and preoccupied, it really is no wonder that so many things get lost.  Heck, since travel warriors like Rick, Velma, and Marla were all victims on this trip, obviously experienced travelers aren't safe from making mistakes either.

I concluded that no one is safe from distraction.  No one.  And certainly not me.

I am the man who has lost a Kindle on a plane, almost lost a computer on a plane, and lost his passport by giving it to his wife at a moment when she was pre-occupied.  Nor can I blame alcohol.  I was cold sober at the time of each mistake.

I will never feel safe again from the curse of going brain dead during a trip.  Like an alcoholic who is forced to be vigilant at all times lest he lapse, maybe the realization of my tendency to be absent-minded will make me more alert on future trips.

The lesson I learned on this trip is the critical importance of paying attention during travel... especially in airports... a veritable breeding ground for mistakes.



This has been a story about the ordeals of Travel.  Visiting other parts of the world is usually very rewarding, but no one will dispute the air travel can sometimes be a gigantic headache.  The long lines, the custom checks, the luggage scans, metal detectors, and the crazy airline issues can really add up.  There is no question that 9-11 has made our world a much tougher place to live in.

If there is a single theme running through each story, it was that a simple, unexpected distraction caused every single mistake. 

I honestly don't know how to guard against that. 

Exhaustion, pressure, frustration and constant interruptions are so much a part of air travel that it seems impossible to prevent at least a few moments when someone is going to take their eye off the ball.

Since our return, people have asked me how the trip to Russia went.  I have told people that the cruise part of the trip was absolutely sensational.  You will never understand the overwhelming opulence of St. Petersburg's Peterhof pictured here until you see it first hand. 

However, the air travel on this trip was more brutal than I have ever encountered before.  Part of it was United's ongoing problems.  Besides our own snafus, our friends Jess and Pat found themselves stuck in Europe when
United Airlines had a major computer meltdown.

The error grounded planes for more than two hours and causing long lines and delayed flights.  Over 200 flights were delayed as its passenger reservation system and website stopped working for about two-and-a-half hours. 

Fortunately the outage didn’t affect planes in flight.  Thank God for Otto Pilot.

The airports were no picnic either. Thanks to the threat of terrorist sabotage, it seems like air travel constantly grows more complicated and more stressful at the same time when Marla and I are clearly less capable of staying constantly vigilant

The good news is practically everywhere we went, we were continually met by kindness from strangers.  I give high marks to the DC people who helped me overcome my lost passport, to the Copenhagen people who helped Velma find her passport, and to the airport people who at least tried to help Marla find her gift bag.

In conclusion, I will say that this trip was a real eye-opener.  I learned the hard way how ridiculously easy it is to be careless.  In that sense, I feel vulnerable to what feels like an increasing tendency towards absent-mindedness and so does Marla. 

I am hopeful that better planning might help.  I already have firm ideas how to protect my passport better from now on.  I don’t like putting it in my back pocket because it is too vulnerable to a pickpocket.  Henceforth, I think I will carry it under my shirt.

I don't ever want to lose my passport again.  Nor do you.

On a parting note, I would like to point out the importance of “Family” and "Friends".  It is clear that without the help of Lynn, Dale, April and the rest of the Griffiths clan, I would have been in a lot more troubleOnce they came to the rescue, I was good to go.  They took great care of me.

In a similar way, without Marla’s sharp eyes, who knows what would have happened to my computer on Puddle Jumper Two?   Likewise, when Velma lost her passport, a complete group of friends were there to support her as we walked across town to search. 

The day our friend Marsha got lost in the giant Hermitage Museum in Russia, we all went searching for her.  We never did actually find her, but thanks to a text message from Marsha to Sandra, we discovered that Marsha had bumped into another Royal Caribbean tour.  Marsha texted the tour guide promised she could get a ride back to the boat with them.

The point is that we would have never left the building until we were sure Marsha was safe.

Our travel group functioned exactly as a Family far from home.  We all looked out for each other. 

Travel is difficult enough as it is, but at least when you have Family and Friends to back you up, you always have a fighting chance.

Next Story:
Visits to Five Different Baltic States starting with
Copenhagen, Denmark

The Passport Incident Revisited

Story Written by Rick Archer
August 2012

Do you believe in Karma?  Do you ever wonder if there might be unseen forces that sometimes control your life?  Personally, I haven’t made up my mind, but I admit to a strong curiosity.

After I published my recent Passport story, I received many compliments.  I began to wonder if I should tell the whole story or not.  You see, there was a part of me that could not shake the feeling that my surprise visit with my Aunt was “meant to be”.

My first introduction to the concept of Karma came when I was six years old.  It was 1956. 

This was a tough time for me because I had just cut my eye out with a knife in a terrible accident a few months previously.  It was my own fault.   Hey, I was six years old and stupid. 

These were the days I was still walking around with a big patch over my damaged left eye.  At the time, they were still trying to save the eye, but I would eventually lose it a couple years later due to a detached retina. 

My father was a brilliant electrical engineer.  He had just been transferred to Houston.  Dad was also an odd sort of guy who was convinced in the existence of UFOs.  He also loved to read about Peter Hurkos, the foremost psychic of the Fifties.  Dad was always telling there was more to this world than met the eye.  I frowned, because any mention of “eye” would put me in a bad mood whether it was my eye he was talking about or not.  Life wasn’t much fun that summer.  

To cheer me up, one night Dad offered to take me to see stock car racing way out on South Main here in Houston. I say “way out”, but now that I think about it, I suppose the race track was located somewhere close to where Loop 610 crosses South Main today or maybe a little further out.  Back in those days, stock cars were a smaller version of the souped-up racecars you might see at the Indy 500. 

There were rides on the route we walked on our way to the race track.  I think I asked my father to take me on a ride and he agreed on one condition.  We didn’t have much time left till the race started and Dad wanted to get a good seat.  So Dad’s condition was that this would be our only stop.  Okay.

As we continued our way to the race track, we could both hear the roar of the engines as the cars raced around the track doing their warm-ups.  We had just begun to pass the wooden fence surrounding the racetrack.

Besides the rides, there were also carnival games like ring toss or baseball toss or basketball shot to win a stuffed animal.  I have no recollection what it was that caught my one good eye, but I suddenly stopped in my tracks and animatedly tugged on my father’s hand to take me to the stand on my right.

My father was irritated. “C’mon, son, we’re gonna miss the start of the race.  You promised.”

“I know, Dad, but I really want to do this.”

With a frustrated shrug of his shoulders, Dad agreed to one more stop.

Just then, there was a terrible crash.  A stock car driver had lost control. His car slammed through the fence at an incredible speed.  Just ten feet in front of us, the car shot directly across our path and came to a horrible crashing stop against a nearby telephone pole.

Naturally we were both terrified.  It was a horrible accident to be sure.  While I clung to my father’s leg for protection, we both just stood there in shock to see if that poor driver would move or not.  He didn’t.

My father said he was certain the man was dead.  No one can survive a head-on crash like that.

As the crowds gathered in horror, my father said it was time to go.  He was fairly certain the race would be canceled.  Besides, he didn’t have the stomach to watch any more.  Just as he was about to leave, Dad stopped.  He started to look at me with the strangest expression.

“Son, why did you stop me?  I mean, why was that game so interesting to you?”

I shook my head in confusion.  “I don’t know, Dad, it suddenly seemed important.”

My father continued to look at me in really weird way.  He had concern written all over his face.

“You know, if you hadn’t stopped me, we both would have been right in the path of that car.”  Dad shook his head in consternation. “You just saved our lives.”

I stared at him and began to cry.  I was so afraid. 

As we walked back, Dad said, “I guess it wasn’t our karma to die today.”

I had no clue what karma was.  I was too scared to ask, but the word stuck in my mind.  


If you asked her, Aunt Lynn would remember that eye accident well.  Lynn was the lady who came to the hospital every day to read “Lassie Come Home” to a kid who had both eyes bandaged.  Bandaging both eyes was meant to protect the damaged eye while it healed from surgery.  I was blind for about a week.  This story was about a destitute family that was forced to sell their beloved dog for money.  Except that Lassie escaped from her cruel new owner and began the long trek from Scotland to her Yorkshire home.

Lynn would later say reading that story was one of the hardest things she ever did because it was such a sad tale and there I was laying there blind at the time.  She felt so sorry for me.  Lynn said she had to have a towel handy to wipe back her constant tears.  You can begin to see why I love her so much.

After that incident, Aunt Lynn would come to my direct aid on four different occasions.  Each intervention would come at a great time of need.  The fourth time Lynn helped me was the most important.  It came during my tough years in college ’68-’72. 

I had several heart-breaking reversals of fortune during my freshman year at Johns Hopkins.  For starters, I fell in love with a pretty girl who broke my heart.  She chose the rich kid over me.  I did not handle it very well.  Then I had my car stolen with no insurance to buy another one.  I was having trouble studying.  I was having trouble making friends.  There were days when I couldn’t find any will to do my homework.  I was lonely and having a hard time coping with life completely on my own.  It is tough to have the discipline to keep working when you don’t believe you have anyone who cares about you.

My once-a-month trips to Northern Virginia to see Lynn, her husband Richard, and my four cousins was the only thing that kept me going.  It was Lynn who took me under her wing. 

While the kids were at school, sometimes we would sit down for a couple hours at a time and talk about my problems.  Her kindness and her pep talks were just enough to bolster my flagging morale and give me the strength to hang in there.  Otherwise I would have gone off the deep end.  Aunt Lynn pretty much saved me during my freshman year.  I will never forget what she did for me.

Because I was so miserable up at school, about this time I began a search for meaning.  This isn’t all that unusual.  A lot of college kids use their time at school to try to get a grip on things. 

These were the days of the Beatles and their Magical Mystery Tour.  Drawing inspiration from them, I began to read everything I could get my hands about mysticism.  Surely there had to be more to life than things seemed.

One book in particular, “Autobiography of a Yogi”, stopped me in my tracks.  From Page One, this book offered one strange story after another to explain the strange role of “Karma” played in a person’s life. 

Ah, Karma.  There was that word again.  This book really got under my skin.  It has been forty some years since I read that book, but I have never forgotten the concept of Karma. 

I will share a strange experience from that same time frame.  While I read the book, I began to wonder if the tragic accident that led to losing my eye was some sort of Karmic debt that I had to pay off. 

I was also studying Astrology.  I noticed in one book on Astrology that my Sun sign was in perfect conjunction with the star Antares.  The book said: “Antares is said to be unfortunate for the eyes, if in conjunction with the Ascendant, Moon or Sun.” 

When I read this alignment was a direct predictor of eye injuries, I turned white.  You don’t believe me?  Well, type “Antares conjunct Sun” into Google and see what you get.  I did it myself.  The very first web site I went to made the same claim as that book forty years earlier.

At that point in college, I began to worry constantly about being blind.  Using a technique called Progressive Astrology, I calculated a dangerous period related to Antares coming up in a couple months.

Strangely enough, two months down the road I accidentally collided with a friend while playing pick-up basketball.  Our foreheads smacked hard and I could feel my glasses digging deep into my one good eye.  As I fell to the floor, I screamed in panic and kept my good eye shut tight out of fear.  Had I damaged my eye in the collision?  I felt pain.  One of my friends said, “Oh my gosh, Rick, you are really bleeding bad.” 

I was scared to open my one good eye.  Please don’t let me be blind.  Finally I steeled myself and opened my eye… I could see.  The blood was coming from my shattered eyebrow.  It was a deep gash that required twelve stitches.  The hospital nurse would later say I had the best attitude about my injury of anyone she had ever met.  Hey, I could still see!!

I was deeply shaken by the deeper meaning of the accident.  Like my father staring at the stock car that could easily have taken our life, I began to wonder if our lives were fated and if all we did was go through the motions while some force controlled us like puppets.

I entered a state of depression.  I stopped studying with any enthusiasm.  I figured if everything was predestined, why bother working so hard?  Whatever was going to happen was going to happen anyway.  I was just going through the motions. 

One night I talked about my recent eye injury with an older man whose opinion I respected.  I told him how this accident had seemingly been predicted by this book.  I said I was worried that we didn’t have free will.  During the conversation, he told me a joke about free will and predestination. 

The joke ran along the lines of “God helps those who help themselves”.

It rained for days and days.  Now there was a terrific flood. The water rose so high that a lady named Sarah was forced to climb on top of her roof.

Sarah had on a poncho and brought several sandwiches with her.  As she munched on the first sandwich, Sarah just sat in the rain and watched the water rise.

One hour later a man in a rowboat came up to the house and told Sarah to get in.

"No thank you, the Lord will save me!" she said.  So the man in the rowboat rowed away.

The waters rose to the edge of the roof and still Sarah sat there secure in her trust.  Another hour passed and then a new rowboat came by.  Same story.

"No thank you, the Lord will save me!"

So the man rowed away.

Two more hours passed.  Now the waters covered the entire roof.  Sarah was forced to sit on top of her chimney as the rain poured down.  The situation was really bad, but fortunately a helicopter just happened to come by.

The pilot urged Sarah to get in now or drown.

"No thank you, the Lord will save me!"

After much begging and pleading, the man in the helicopter gave up and flew away. The waters rose above the chimney and the woman drowned.

Sarah went to heaven where she met God.

"Lord, I don't understand," she said, "Why didn't you save me?"

The Lord just shook his head.  "Gee whiz, Sarah, I sent two boats and a helicopter."

As simple as that joke was, it had an effect on me.  That was exactly what I needed to hear.  Maybe I had free will and maybe I didn’t.  However, I decided the only way I could live my life effectively was to assume I did have free will.  For my life to work, I absolutely had to believe I was captain of my own ship.

That decision worked.  I snapped out of my tailspin and started to study again.

I also made a major decision. 

If something was going to happen; it was going to happen whether I tried to guess it in advance or not.  It was a waste of time worrying about it because worrying about being blind had turned me into a basket case.  Enough already.  My life had worked much better before I started believing in all this Predestination and Fate stuff.

I dropped my new hobby of Astrology.  I never seriously opened another astrology book again.  Whether astrology was legitimate or not, I could not live my life normally if I was always waiting for something bad to happen.   I closed my astrology book for good and I closed my Yogi book for good as well.  I obviously didn’t have the guts to continue to delve into the mysteries of the Universe. 

In the forty years since then, I have never gone back to my book about Karma.  But that doesn’t mean I have forgotten.  It just means I am so spooked about it that I need to keep my distance.

The concept of Karma stays with me at all times.  Whenever something really out of the ordinary happens, I pause and recall the teachings of my Book in wonderment.

I am not a mystic.  Hardly.  Ever since my college days, I have had both feet firmly planted in the Material World.  I have never had a vision.  I have never seen a ghost.  I don’t see auras.  I have never heard voices in my head and I have never seen a UFO.  I have never had even the slightest experience with ESP or precognition.  Basically, I have never had an obvious mystical experience in my life. 

There are people who say there is spiritual side to life that exists beyond our five senses, but don’t ask me to prove it.  I have no evidence to offer whatsoever.

Therefore, I am not writing this article with any intention of telling you what is real and what is not real.  I am wanderer on the Path of Truth just like everyone else. 

All I am going to say is that I have led a life full of chance meetings and strange coincidences that defy logic.  That’s the best I can do.

Since I wish to believe there is more to this world than meets the eye, I have paid special attention every time one of these “coincidences” occurs.  I might add that I am not the only person in the world who thinks “coincidences” have a deeper meaning. 

Here are some interesting quotes. 

“A Coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain invisible.”  Unknown

“Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys.”  Emma Bull

"Coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous."  Doris Lessing

"When you live your life with an appreciation of Coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities."  Deepak Chopra

"The more frequently one uses the word ‘Coincidence’ to explain bizarre happenings, the more obvious it becomes that one is not seeking, but rather evading the real explanation."    Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson


So what is a good example of a coincidence?  Here’s a simple one.

It was now one year since my bloody eye injury had sent me into a meaning of life tailspin.  I was 20 years old and a junior in college. 

After my accident, I had foresworn all my books on mysticism and had moved my search for meaning in a different direction.  Now I was taking every college course in Philosophy and Psychology that was offered.

On a spring day in April 1971, out of nowhere, an odd thought darted across my mind.  I thought to myself, “Uh oh, I don’t have a job for the summer.  I wonder what I will do.”

I thought about it for a moment.  An idea popped into my head. “You know, I would really like to be a camp counselor at a summer camp.  Wouldn’t that be fun?”

I smiled for a moment, but then cast it off as unrealistic.  I didn’t know a soul who could help me and it was too late realistically to do anything about it.  I wouldn’t even know where to start.

Three days later I was playing with this kid named Eric at a Day Care Center where I volunteered.  Eric was my favorite.  He was about six years old and funny as all get out.  As I sat there chatting with Eric, his mother Nancy walked up.  Nancy was smiling because she knew I liked her kid and he liked me.

Along with Nancy was an attractive lady named Mary.  Nancy introduced Mary as her sister.  I asked Mary where she was from.  Colorado.

“Oh, I love Colorado.  I have visited there many times.  Beautiful.  I love the mountains. What do you do in Colorado?”

“My husband and I run a summer camp for teenagers.”

My eyes narrowed.

“That’s odd because I was just thinking the other day how much I would enjoy a job as a camp counselor this summer.  Do you have any openings?”

“Well, interestingly enough, we do.  In fact, I am here in Baltimore to conduct some interviews.”

At this point, as if on cue, Nancy volunteered, “I have known Rick for several months. He is awesome with the kids here at the Center.”

Mary smiled. “Well, in that case, why don’t you come over to Nancy’s house tonight and meet my husband?”

That evening I got the job.  As I drove home, I was well aware that my books on mysticism had often mentioned that strong wishes had the ability to become reality. 

One month later I drove out to Colorado.  There is an interesting story about this wonderful break I received.  On the bright side, I turned out to be one of the most popular counselors in the camp.   Sure enough, I loved the kids and they loved my goofy, teasing style.  Anyone who has ever taken a dance class from me has probably suffered the same quirky sense of humor.  And, of course, I loved being in the mountains of Colorado for an entire summer. 

Yet at the same time, I had the most difficult summer of my life at that camp.  For one thing, I was really out of my element.  I was a city kid with practically no practical outdoors skills thrown in with a lot of young men who had grown up on a farm.  We had almost nothing in common.  One day someone asked me what I studied in college.  I said Dostoevsky, Sartre and Kierkegaard.  Where did this guy come from?  I could have been from outer space as far as they were concerned. 

However, it wasn’t the Agriculture majors who gave me trouble.  As long as I did my job, they just left me alone.  The Fraternity types were much worse.

At that time in my life, I was an introverted bookworm who had limited social skills.  For starters, I had zero social skills with women.  I had never dated in high school and just enough in college to get my heart broken.  Like the Ag majors, the female counselors simply gave me a wide berth.  I was too weird for them. 

However my real weakness was the Frat Boys.  I did not do well with the confident alpha males my own age.  Several of the male counselors were gung-ho fraternity types who quickly identified me as the weakling.  There is just something about human nature that makes some people pick on those who are different.  That would be me.

There was a group of three young men who took turns picking on me any time they could.  The teasing I got was unmerciful all summer long.  It was tough because I was completely on my own.  I had no one to talk to about their constant razzing. 

The problem for me is that I was stuck in my mystical teachings at that point in my life.  My “mystical teachings” had strongly endorsed the Christian ethic of turning the other cheek.  The more these guys picked on me, the more I kept my resentment bottled up in a pathetic attempt to be “spiritual”.  My silence did me no good.  They kept teasing and I kept getting angrier inside.

I finally had to learn to stand my ground against these bullies.  One day I finally lost my temper. That’s all it took.  They took one look at the look on my face, the size of my broad shoulders and my balled up fist and decided to leave me alone for the rest of the month.  The ordeal was over.  To be honest, I think they really just wanted proof that I was human like anyone else.

I learned there are times when you gotta to stick up for yourself.  Too bad I had to learn that valuable lesson the hard way.  Some might even say this was a karmic lesson.  

Meanwhile, that miserable summer made me very leery about the wisdom of “asking” for things in the future.  Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.

I realized that just because your wish comes through, Karma may put a twist on it you might not appreciate.  The writings suggest that Karma exists to teach lessons whether you like them or not.

I have lived my entire adult life pretending I have free will while simultaneously believing there may actually be something to this concept of Karma.  I find it very comforting to believe that for all the terrible things that happen in this, there might be an underlying reason to explain it all.  That’s the only way I can handle tragedies like the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado, or 9-11. 

And yet I don’t have a single bit of proof that Karma is a legitimate force in nature.  This is all conjecture.  So please take my word for it when I say I have absolutely no desire to persuade you or anyone else that I know what I am talking about.  If I can get you through this article without making you think I am losing my mind, I’ll settle for that.

The truth is I have no way to verify the authenticity of the Hindu concept of Karma.  I will go no further out on a limb than to say I am open-minded to the idea.  Yes, I would like for “Karma” to be true because that would add so much more meaning to my life and to “Life” in general.  But, like many beliefs, just because I want it to be true isn’t going to make it so.  

Let’s just say I have spent my last forty years in quiet observation of the possibility and leave it at that.  My conclusion is that there have been enough “coincidences” in my life to cause me to continue my avid curiosity.  And yet at the same time I have always made sure to maintain a parallel sense of skepticism.  We will just have to see, won’t we? 

Now let’s discuss the loss of my passport. 

When I recently lost my passport, I was frantic for about 30 minutes.  I could not begin to think straight.  However, when I calmed down and got a grip, it dawned on me that one of my best friends in the world lived at most ten miles away. How could I have forgotten Lynn and the rest of my family?  That didn’t make any sense.  It seemed very strange that I never even thought of her till now. It was like I had “blinders” on and someone had just removed them.

Immediately one of those “feelings” came over me.  Maybe I was supposed to be here.  Maybe this was a Karmic moment that was meant to happen. 

I lost that passport under very strange circumstance to begin with.  And now when I was feeling completely stranded in the middle of nowhere, I suddenly realized that one of my best friends in the Universe was just down the road.   What an odd coincidence!  

Back when Marla said we would be passing through a DC airport, I remember specifically saying how much I wished I could see Lynn.   As I said, be careful what you wish for.  You might just get it… and the unexpected twist as well.

Well, here I was.  I knew for sure that Lynn and I had a bond that is special.  This accident had given me the perfect opportunity to see her again.  And just maybe Lynn could help me out of this jam!!   However, it was all so convenient that I had to wonder if this meeting was part of the unseen “Plan”. There was a sense of eeriness to the moment that caused goose bumps.

If you have read my passport story, then you already know things worked out wonderfully.

So let’s fast-forward a bit.

Yesterday I ran into an old friend.  This friend saw me and smiled.  “I read your story and I am proud of you, Rick.  You handled your Karmic situation perfectly.”

I was shocked.  What a thing to say!  But then I smiled.  Why not admit the truth?  I confessed there was a part of me that completely agreed something very unusual had happened.

Then I asked, “So you think this was a Karmic moment?”

“Absolutely.  The moment you sensed that your strange dilemma had that eerie ‘feel’ to it, you relaxed and simply allowed the ensuing drama to unfold without further panic.  I am pleased for you.”

I nodded.  Although I had not originally intended to say it publically, that was exactly what I had thought at the time.   This situation was “meant to be”, so why not enjoy it?

This had all the feel of a situation arranged by unseen hands.  I could not help but recall my favorite quote: “Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys.” 

This unexpected event definitely had a possible mystical element to it. 

Now apparently my friend who read my story had come to the same conclusion. I even thought it was odd that my friend showed up at just the right time to assure me that I wasn’t thinking crazy thoughts after all.  “No, Rick, you are not losing your mind. This is how Karma works.”

As I wrap this story up, I hope it is clear that I am not attempting to impose any sort of religious philosophy on anyone.  I have written this story simply because I had a weird experience and I wanted to share my curiosity about it.

Is there more to Life than meets the eye?  I don’t know, but I hope so.

None of us really “know”, now do we?  That is what Faith and Belief are all about.  When it comes to Karma, I never know whether I am thinking like a mad man or I am on the right track. 

On a day to day basis, I go through life acting as if there is nothing supernatural about the world at all.  However, in the secret corners of my mind, I find it comforting to believe in the concept of Karma because it suggests that amid all the pain and chaos in the world, there may actually be an underlying Divine Order.  Now wouldn’t that be nice? 


Next Story: Visits to Five Different Baltic States starting with Copenhagen, Denmark

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